Nurses, hospital close to deal

Nurses and Wilcox Memorial Hospital officials reached a tentative agreement yesterday on a three-year contract that would return about 120 nurses to work.

The agreement brought a halt to the daily pace of nurses who marched outside Wilcox’s entrance.

“As a show of the hope that we’re headed back, the nurses decided to pull the picket lines,” said Clyde Hiyashi, a union representative.

The negotiating teams took about half an hour to hammer out the agreement and issued a joint press release stating that the 124-day standoff could be near its end.

“I’m relieved,” said Aggie Pigao Cadiz, executive director of the Hawai‘i Nurses Association, the union that represents the nurses. “It’s been a long, hard four months for our members. They’ve endured a lot.”

Nurses will vote Thursday on the proposal, with a simple majority — 50 percent plus one — deciding the outcome, Pigao Cadiz said earlier in the strike.

“We’re optimistic they’ll ratify the contract,” said Lani Yukimura, Wilcox’s spokeswoman.

Nurses sat on the picket line yesterday morning, waiting to attend the talks that began at 1 p.m.

“I’m starting to get butterflies in my stomach,” said Lori Banasihan, a nurse in the labor and delivery unit.

She is ready to return to work, she said, especially after a recent visit to see a family member at the hospital.

“I went in there the other night,” she said. “I saw other nurses taking care of the babies, and I was all sad.”

The hospital lost some nurses during the strike, union members have said, with some taking jobs elsewhere and others retiring.

“There’s definitely going to be a lot of pukas,” said Donna Moore, a nurse who also waited to go into the negotiation session.

Yukimura said nurses had resigned or retired during the strike, and the hospital had been actively seeking replacements.

The hospital has remained open since nurses walked out in June, citing contract disputes that centered on staffing procedures.

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